Guest post by Sean O’Shea
With the upcoming Windows 8 launch happening tomorrow (Friday 26th October), I recently did a keynote speech at an event with one of our partners. We had a great turn out including head teachers, deputy head teachers and ICT leads from primary and secondary schools. It was overwhelming how much positive response we got from the audience about Windows 8, and we had some excellent feedback and questions from the education staff who attended.
I’ll go into these in more detail later on, but in a nutshell the main things people at the event got excited about were:
· The choice of hardware available with Windows 8 and Windows RT
· Windows 8 is able to run legacy apps
· Compatibility in the classroom – USB slots on both Windows RT and Windows 8 (you can find a good compatibility matrix for Windows 8 and Programs/Devices here)
· Office Home and Student on Windows RT
· If pupils are embracing BYOD or taking devices home, the availability of Windows 8 and Windows RT family safety settings are really valuable. Parents can even set controls on what rated apps children can download
So it’s great that teachers and IT staff are already seeing the possibilities of Windows 8 and Windows RT for their schools. Although one thing that struck me after my discussions with the education staff at the event, was the number of people asking about the differences between Windows RT and Windows 8. Deciding which devices and OS to work with in schools is a big decision, so I understand the importance of schools leaders and IT decision makers needing to know what features they will gain from each Windows OS version.
Before I separate the two, I just want to say that the teachers and ICT leaders at the event seemed to clearly spot the key advantage of both Windows RT and Windows 8 - the choice of devices. There is such a large range of devices available with these two operating systems, which means you are not limited to just one piece of hardware, and you can really tailor a device that’s right for your school. You can find just a few options for hardware here.
Detailed below are some of the main features of both Windows RT and Windows 8, which seemed to be most important to education staff at the event.
Window RT devices use an ARM processor. This includes many features that are important when using a device in the classroom.
Quick on / fast boot
With Windows RT devices booting up in seconds, no class time is wasted. The Samsung Ativ Tab, for example, is ‘always ready to go!’ with a quick boot up time.
Thin and light Windows RT devices are portable and easy for pupils and teachers to transport to, from and around school. Devices fit in a school bag easily without weighing it down. Surface with Windows RT, for example, weighs just 676g and is 9.3 mm thin.
With most Windows RT devices having a battery life of at least 8 hours or more, this is enough for the duration of a full school day. Therefore there’s no need to worry about lesson interruptions from low battery life.
Multiple user profiles
As mentioned above, with and increasing amount of pupils using BYOD for school and taking devices home, it’s vital that internet safety is practiced. With the option of multiple user profiles on Windows RT, parents can monitor and set what apps and content children can download.
Office Home & Student 2013 is included with Windows RT
Windows RT includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote – all essential apps for the classroom.
USB 2.0 slot
Connect external peripherals such as external hard drives for extra storage and backup.
You can print documents in the classroom with Windows RT. Dell and Hewlett-Packard have published a compatibility list of printers for Windows RT.
Keyboard option on many devices
Touch screen is great, and it provides a really immersive and engaging experience, but when it comes to typing you can lose half the screen with a touch keyboard. Lots of Windows RT devices have detachable keyboards or a keyboard dock (some include battery charging) for flexibility of type or touch, and the option of a fully viewable screen whilst typing.
You can bring all the apps that you use in Windows 7 over to a Windows 8 device. So all your learning tools you currently use in the classroom can still be used exactly as they are in Windows 8 (any Windows 7 application win32 .exe will work).
Join to your domain
With Windows 8 devices, schools are able to join to their domain. The main advantage of this is that schools will be able to manage devices in a traditional way such as doing updates, managing security and deploying software.
Like a PC
Windows 8 devices are built to work like your desktop PC, including inbuilt drivers. They are designed with the power and capability of an ultrabook, in a tablet form. Think space saving in the classroom and working outside of the classroom. Consider the flexibility of working on Windows 8 devices - they are much more portable so pupils and teachers can work anywhere, anytime, with all the functionality of a desktop PC. Take your class outside, on a trip, or around the school - with devices in tow.
Some Windows 8 devices offer stylus support. Stylus accessories are great for pupils to take written notes with a device pen, which can then be digitized into documents. An example is the Asus Vivo Tab.
Windows To Go
Windows To Go enables the creation of a Windows To Go workspace that can be booted from a USB-connected external drive on PCs that meet the Windows 7 or Windows 8 certification requirements, regardless of the operating system running on the PC. This provides efficient use of resources for alternative workplace scenarios. This is all about mobility. Schools are looking at ways to provide mobile solutions for pupils. If a school wants a teacher or a pupil to have access to their school desktop and school network (apps, settings etc) from home, it’s easy with Windows To Go. At the moment schools might look at complicated solutions such as VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). Windows to go will provide an incredibly simple alternative that will allow pupils and teachers to experience their full windows 8 school desktop at home with just a USB drive.
Flexible price points
It looks like there’s going to be some really great deals coming for Windows 8 devices, so again the choice of hardware design relative to your budget is huge. A nice example is the Acer W510 which is reportedly going to be priced at around $500.
I hope that gives you some valuable information on Windows RT and Windows 8, as well as some help with choosing devices for your school.